Industry Update
Opinion Article26 January 2021

The Time Is Now for Direct Booking for Groups

By Kemp Gallineau, CEO Groups360

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Gallineau

While the pandemic has wreaked havoc on companies around the world, the crisis has also accelerated technological innovation and adaptation at an unprecedented rate.

Businesses that have been able to pivot to meeting the unique needs of these times have not only survived the fallout but are also poised for ongoing growth as we emerge from the crisis.

The companies that act on these new opportunities tend to be smaller and more agile and recognize the opportunity to provide solutions to existing problems.

That's certainly been the case for Groups360.

A path to recovery
As a hotelier myself, it's been hard to watch my industry colleagues suffer through the pandemic — friends and associates have been furloughed or laid off and hotels have closed. Despite the downturn, our industry still holds out hope for a strong, if slow, recovery.

As a result, hotels and meeting planners increasingly are looking at ways to automate manual tasks and improve efficiency. Groups360 has embraced this unique opportunity to provide technology solutions for hotels that need to do more with less.

Beginning in 2014, Groups360 created GroupSync, an online marketplace for meetings that makes the process of booking groups simpler and more transparent for both planners and hotels. In August of 2019, we raised $50 million from four of the world's leading hotel brands — Accor, IHG, Hilton and Marriott — to further the development of GroupSync so that hotels could offer direct booking of guest rooms and hotel meeting space.

We launched GroupSync Engage, the first direct booking solution for groups on the market, in October 2020.

The hotel industry needs this technology now more than ever. The downturn has fueled our drive to expedite our applications so that we can try to help the industry return in a more efficient and effective way. We've invested in more developers and spent more time with our customers so that hotels and planners have the resources they need to recover.

Direct booking has finally arrived
Direct booking is an idea that has finally found its time. The future of booking meetings will be direct and online, especially for smaller, less complicated events.

People in our industry have been trying to solve the problem of booking groups forever. The reason we've finally crossed that technological threshold before anyone else is because we're coming at it from a different perspective. We've brought together both the planner side and the supplier side, as opposed to taking a position that favors one side over the other.

Just as consumers buy on Amazon and book direct for leisure travel, we also have to consider how our customers want to consume room nights and space for meetings and events. For less complex meetings, we have technology that simplifies booking both rooms and space, easing the planner's workload and freeing up hotel staff. That's the difference in our approach, which has made us successful in creating technology that helps both sides of the marketplace.

Hotels need better technology
Even before the pandemic, the industry had been seeking ways to better serve planners and reduce the cost of sales. Groups360's technology development has been predicated on supplying hotels with better tools at a lower cost so they could pass efficiency and higher value on to their planner customers.

The pandemic and subsequent economic fallout has forced many people, including hoteliers, to streamline their operations and become more efficient. As companies downsize and lose customers, while gaining new customers for different reasons, the question becomes, "How can you use technology to change behavior, reinforce that change, and create trust and confidence?" Consumers want more control and suppliers are looking to capture new customers in the most cost effective way.

The time is now to expedite technology development. A few years ago, the assumption was, "If it's not broken, why fix it?" Now, everything is broken and needs to be reinvented from the ground up. The hospitality industry is eager to take advantage of methods that will solve age-old issues.

As we have developed our technology, we've focused on bringing the marketplace together — the consumer who needs certain goods and the suppliers who provide those goods — so that they can transact business in a way that's more transparent and at a lower price point than thought possible.

This is extremely important in an industry that has lagged in adopting new technology. The hospitality industry would never be accused of being early adopters, but we need better tech in order to move forward successfully. As we begin to recover from the pandemic, technological adoption will be much higher because everyone is being forced to change their behaviors to confront current challenges.

Technology that serves the meetings industry must instill confidence that the user can trust the outcome of the transaction. That's where Groups360 has been spending our time because this is the future of the industry. Will all meetings and events be transacted online? It's unlikely. Meetings of any size come with inherent logistical complexities. But can we make the process more efficient? Can we move the sales process further down the line? Yes, and we will, because that's what meeting planners have needed and requested for years.

A way forward
Prior to founding Groups360, I had a long career as a senior executive with Gaylord Entertainment Company, purveyor of some of the U.S.'s largest conference hotels.

As we endeavor to recover, my advice to other hoteliers is to take a more holistic approach to your goals. As you consider the best way to restore your business, you might, out of a sense of desperation, just pick one side of the equation by focusing only on reducing commissions or generating more leads. Instead, consider how to enable your hotel salespeople to have better interactions with the people planning meetings or transacting without any manual intervention.

Groups360 is trying to make sure you have everything you need at the right time. When you're ready to transact business, we will equip you with all the data you need to make a good decision. When you're ready to buy, you will have all the data you need to make a purchase. When you're ready to sell, you have the necessary information about your customers to personalize your approach and make customers feel special and heard.

As we come out of this pandemic, we're here to help hoteliers be highly efficient, drive revenue, and create a great environment to sell not just the commodities of rooms and space but the value hotels provide, as well as help meeting planners perform their work more efficiently. That's what Groups360 is here to do.

To learn more, visit groups360.com.

Kemp Gallineau

    More from Kemp Gallineau

    About Groups 360

    Groups360 was created with a singular goal — to empower meeting planners by bringing innovation, transparency and simplicity to the decades-old problem of booking groups. The company's integrated technology solution, GroupSync, enables suppliers to distribute inventory, engage with planners, and optimize group revenue. GroupSync also equips planners to search and shop hotels worldwide and to book rooms and space directly, online or through a simplified RFP process. GroupSync is the first distribution channel to offer online booking for both group hotel rooms and meeting space.

    Groups360 has offices in Nashville, London and Singapore. Learn more at groups360.com.

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